Four Steps to Successfully Meal Plan & Prep
Sometimes the workweek feels like a marathon. That you have to sprint. While juggling. With your eyes closed. Ok. Maybe it’s not always that bad, but the Monday through Friday grind can definitely feel like a whirlwind. While I have not been to work outside of the home since December, I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. And, now that our family has grown, so have our responsibilities, so I can only imagine what it will feel like when I go back to school.
I am working on trying to get back into some of the routines that we use throughout the school year. We have certain ways we run errands, get our cleaning done, and prepare our food for the week. These systems work for us, ensure that we lead a healthy lifestyle, and help us enjoy more of our time together in the evenings after work. One of the main things we do to get ready for our week is to meal plan & prep on the weekends. We usually do our grocery shopping and other errands on Saturday. Grocery shopping is an errand that we actually love and make an event out of when we can. It helps that our grocery store has a coffee bar [for mama] and an actual bar [for dada].
If you are new to the idea of meal planning and prep, give it a try! Here are the steps we follow [and you can, too!] to make sure we successfully meal plan and prep for the week.
- Make a solid plan.
For our family, we plan a few main meals that we will cook for the week. In addition to these meals, we schedule in eating leftovers at least one night a week, and also have some extra items on hand to make easy meals if we need them. When we cook at home, we generally stick to Whole30 and Paleo type meals with lots of protein and vegetables. We also incorporate some beans and legumes into our meals.
When planning, we first check our fridge and cabinets to see what we have on hand. We make sure to choose meals that include ingredients we have in order to make our week as budget friendly as possible, and then we talk about what else sounds good for the week to fill in the rest of our days! Here is what a typical week looks like for us:
Sunday: Pepperoncini Beef [Crockpot] with Roasted Vegetables
Monday: Pesto Lentil Pasta [Will share a quick recipe soon]
Wednesday: Chicken Fajitas [Instant Pot]
Thursday: Leftovers/Easy Meal [Like Omelets or Salads]
Friday: Order In Takeout
Saturday: Pork Chops or Chicken & Roasted Vegetables [or we go out to eat J]
- Make a list and stick to it.
Making a list for the store is key. Not only will you definitely have the ingredients for the meals that you planned, but I find that when I make a list, I actually spend a LOT less money at the store each week. With a list, I am not randomly throwing items in the cart and trying to make them fit together later. Will I sometimes grab an extra thing or two? Sure. [i.e. chocolate] But, overall sticking to the list helps us stay healthy and on budget!
- Shop and chop.
When we get home from the store, we do not just put our groceries into the fridge. As soon as we get home, we unload the bags and get to work. We wash, chop, and store veggies and fruits. We also marinade or season meat if that is in our plan for the week. This is probably the most important part of our meal prep process and is one of the ways that we make sure we actually eat the healthy food that we buy. It does no good to buy fresh foods if they just sit in the fridge. Get them ready to eat right away and you will be more likely to reach for them!
- Cook, cook, cook!
We usually use Sunday to cook ahead lots of food for both lunches and dinners. My favorite way to get the most bang for my buck is to cook a slow cooker meal on Sunday [that way dinner is ready for Sunday night] and to prep ahead other foods while that cooks.
Each week I roast a variety of vegetables to have for sides and snacks. We rotate between green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, asparagus, beets, zucchini, and mushrooms. We also prepare salad ingredients by cutting up and washing lettuce and slicing radishes and red onion. I don’t buy a lot of convenience items, but I save myself some time in the produce department by purchasing shredded carrots and broccoli slaw for salads.
Depending on what we have planned for the week, we will also make another complete meal [in addition to whatever we have in the slow cooker]. Often times we will use this for our lunches for the week and/or Monday night’s dinner.
One thing I am excited for this year is our Instant Pot! We got one after Livvie was born and it has been awesome so far! I have a feeling this might change our meal prep as time goes on, and I am hoping it will make weeknight meals easier.
So if you are new to meal prep or are looking to improve your practice, try these four steps to make the process run smoothly and your weeks more enjoyable!
What do you do to make your life easier during the week? Do you have any meal planning or preparation tips & tricks? Share them in the comments below!